Q&A With Senior Left Back Matthew McClure
Q: Having lost the likes of Josh Cohen behind you and Alec Arsht and Gavin Lamming next to you to graduation after last year, you are now the veteran leader on the UCSD back line. How have you embraced that role?
McCLURE: It's definitely hard to replace two (Arsht, Cohen), and what should have been three (Lamming) All-Americans, but we also lost seven other seniors who helped lead and made major contributions throughout the team. After losing all those guys, the team now looks to us older players to replace their leadership and I try to do my part, but for the most part, it's a team effort and the new guys who have come in have done a good job of making it easy to start this season where we left off.
Q: We're talking about a Triton defense that has ranked in the top five nationally in Division II in team goals-against average in each of the last two seasons. Is that something you guys talk about as a unit at all? How much pride do you take in it?
McCLURE: Becoming ranked in the top five is something that came along with our defensive system and all the work we put in to make it work as smoothly as possible. We talk about getting shutouts and pushing to be the best we can, but the rankings have come along with that the last two seasons which is awesome to see. And yes we definitely take pride in keeping clean sheets and being one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Q: We see you guys out on the practice field time and time again, tirelessly working on your defensive shape with (head) Coach (Jon) Pascale and (associate head) Coach (Ryan) Hernandez. What makes this unit so successful?
McCLURE: The coaches have put together a system where we all have specific jobs and we are required to do them well for the unit to be successful. We also have good individual players working to make it happen all over the field. This hard work and game plan makes it successful.
Q: It's somewhat rare to see defenders taking penalty kicks, but there you were last year, not once, but twice, stepping up to take one in both the second round of the NCAA tournament and the third round. Did you know you'd be one of the kickers all along, or were you a last-minute volunteer? Are they as nerve-wracking as they appear on television?
McCLURE: Yes, I knew I would be one of the takers because we had competitions in practice once the end of the season started to come and we knew we would be in games where penalties would be a possibility. I felt surprisingly calm walking up to take the one against Chico (State), but not so much for the one against Simon Fraser, and the resulting kicks pretty much say how much being nervous affected me.
Q: Based off of that question, we won't ask you again for your favorite moment as a Triton, as we know it to be the penalty-kick triumph over rival Chico State in the NCAA second round last November. How great was it to be in the middle of that postgame celebration?
McCLURE: It was awesome! Definitely my favorite soccer moment, and to have so many fans and all of us celebrate like that was crazy fun. All I remember were ecstatic people running around yelling and hugging and Josh Cohen being hoisted up on a crowd of people's shoulders chanting.
Q: This is your final season in a Triton uniform. When do you expect to complete your degree in management science at Warren College, and what might be next for you? You've indicated an interest in a career in sports.
McCLURE: I expect to be done with my degree shortly after soccer ends, at the end of winter quarter. Unfortunately, my time here is almost over, but I'm excited to see what happens after. I'm pretty much considering anything. I love sports, especially soccer.
Q: What's one thing that you would like our readers to know about your hometown of Yucaipa?
McCLURE: It's way better than everyone thinks. Once I tell them it's a small city 20 miles east of Riverside, everyone assumes it's terrible, which is not the case.
Q: We know you as a fan of the world's game. What professional soccer club(s) do you root for? Who do you think will win England's Barclays Premier League this season?
McCLURE: I like Arsenal, especially after I was able to see them play a Premier League game in London! Unfortunately, I don't think they will win this season. I think it's going to be Man City again.
Q: What are some of the other things you like to do outside of your interest in soccer?
McCLURE: Soccer has pretty much consumed my life for the last few years, so sadly for this question I don't have much exciting to say. I keep in touch with my family and a lot of old friends, though, so it's always good to see old friends and family, and to have fun with all of my friends here in college.
Q: After knocking on the door for several years, this program finally made its breakthrough back into national relevance in 2013. How do you keep it there after losing seven starters, three of them All-Americans, and what can Triton fans expect from this squad in 2014?
McCLURE: Well, making it almost all the way to the top last year was a big boost, which makes it easier for us to continue that this year. For the fans this year, they can expect a lot of new faces, some old ones, and maybe not as many established convincing wins as last year, but I think there will be more up, down, and exciting moments and victories. The fans shouldn't expect any less than they did last year, though.
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